Born 10 March 1900 in Brick Lane, a mainly Jewish quarter of East London. Father, a dairyman and Welsh Baptist, turned to drink and later abandoned his family. His death in 1914 brought hard times for his widow, forced to go out to work in a railway goods depot, and children. Family slid into the slum environment of poverty, dirt and violence. Left school at 14. Married. Still living in East London in 1984.
Apprentice printer (1914); enlisted in army (1915) but soon discharged when his true age was discovered; conscripted (1917); following discharge he drifted from one job to another, including as a printer’s agent (1921-2) and van driver for HMSO; joined the London General Omnibus Company in 1925 as a bus conductor; bus driver from 1939. Retired in 1968.
Member of Army of Occupation in Germany; correspondence secretary of the London Busmen’s Rank and File Movement; elected to the General Executive Council of the Transport and General Workers’ Union in 1943.
The memoirs commence with wry comments on life in London’s East End in the opening years of the twentieth century, describing swimming in polluted canals, schooling (‘a joke’), music halls, and family life. Brief remarks on his army experiences precede a detailed account of his time on the buses. Anecdotes of work and passengers combine with a record of the struggle to achieve trade union recognition, a history of the Busmen’s Rank and File movement, and reflections on newspapers produced by and for the busmen (The Bus Wheel, Busmen’s Punch; The Transporter; The Platform; Bus Stop). The autobiography is supplemented by pen pictures of political leaders (Arthur Deakin; Harold Clay; John Tiffin; Frank Cousins; Lord Ashfield), copies of speeches and an incomplete set of The Busmen’s Punch (1934-5).
Jack William Jones, Untitled, Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, 1:250, available at http://bura.brunel.ac.uk/handle/2438/10895
‘Jack William Jones’ in John Burnett, David Vincent and David Mayall (eds) The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography 1790-1945, 3 vols. (Brighton: Harvester, 1984, 1987, 1989): 2:443